SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants' list of anticipated changes for the 2017 season will be relatively short but highly significant.
Free agency is expected to be a key component of the offseason for the second year in a row. The Giants need a legitimate closer and left fielder. Emboldened by the acquisition of right-handers Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija as well as center fielder Denard Span on the open market last winter, San Francisco believes it can tap this stream again with bountiful results.
"Resources will be expended as necessary," club president and chief executive officer Larry Baer said.
One way or another, the Giants are certain to remain active this offseason. Besides filling their needs, they have six free agents and six salary arbitration-eligible players to address as they strive to compile their eighth winning record in nine years.
Rotation: Barring injuries, the top four spots will securely remain in the capable hands of Madison Bumgarner, Cueto, Matt Moore and Samardzija. Intrigue awaits after the 2017 season ends, when Cueto can opt out of the remaining four years of his six-year, $130 million deal. If he duplicates this season's success (18-5, 2.79 ERA), it's easy to imagine that Cueto would dive into free agency, if only to gauge his own value. Veteran Matt Cain and rookie Ty Blach will be the leading competitors for the rotation's fifth spot.
Bullpen: The Giants have an ample, skilled crew of young relievers. But their depth is just a bottomless pit without a legitimate closer. Casilla sealed his fate with early-season bouts of inconsistency and a stretch of three blown saves in a span of six September appearances. Romo has been a Giants mainstay since 2008, but he is unlikely to be asked to return, due to the club's plethora of right-handers (Kontos, Gearrin, Hunter Strickland, Derek Law and Albert Suarez, who'll probably open the season as San Francisco's long reliever). Lopez, another valued Giant during the World Series years, appears bound elsewhere.
Catcher: Buster Posey established personal highs with 122 starts and 102 complete games caught. This was much appreciated by the pitching staff, which enjoyed throwing to the four-time All-Star. Skeptics believe that Posey's industriousness behind the plate also accounted for his career-low, full-season offensive totals, including 14 homers, a .288 batting average and a .796 OPS. The series of nagging injuries that Posey sustained -- and never complained about -- also might have muted his offensive production. Interestingly, talk of Posey's moving to first base has been virtually silenced. Trevor Brown has proven to be a competent backup on those increasingly rare days when Posey rests.
First base: It wasn't just the diligent work of the Giants' social media crew that sent Brandon Belt to San Diego as the winner of the 2016 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote. He put himself there with an excellent first half (.302 batting average, 10 homers, 47 RBIs, .928 OPS). Likewise, Belt was responsible for his second-half slump (.241 average. seven homers, 35 RBIs, .792 OPS). The Giants would like to see steadier production from Belt, who's signed through 2021.
Second base:Joe Panik didn't come close to meeting expectations with his .239 batting average. But it's easy to forget that Panik had to cope with the aftereffects of a concussion he sustained when he was hit by future teammate Moore at Tampa Bay on June 18. Given that adversity, his totals of seven triples,10 homers and 62 RBIs don't seem so bad. He also was the Majors' most difficult player to strike out (11.19 plate appearances per K). The left-handed-batting Panik has no desire to be a platoon player, so expect him to work hard to fend off right-handed-swinging Kelby Tomlinson next spring.
Shortstop: With excellent defensive range to either side and versatile offensive skills, Brandon Crawford is on the brink of establishing himself as one of the National League's best all-around performers. The NL's reigning Gold Glove Award winner at his position, Crawford emerged as the league's top fielding shortstop according to calculations from John Dewan's Stat of the Week. Crawford played 155 games, and the Giants couldn't fathom having him out of the lineup any more than that.
Third base: Nunez received most of the activity here after the Giants obtained him from Minnesota on July 28. His status will probably remain intact next year, though he'd be well-advised to maintain his effectiveness against right-handed pitching (.301 as a Giant, .295 overall), given Gillaspie's startling postseason production.
Outfield: Though Pagan performed admirably at times (.277 batting average in 129 games), the Giants believe that they can find an upgrade, perhaps from within their own clubhouse. Left-handed-hitting Jarrett Parker and right-handed-swinging Mac Williamson have demonstrated power potential in limited Major League action and could receive a chance to form a platoon or compete for the job individually. The Giants will also pursue free agency or trade options in this area.
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.